The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Romanesque Europe

What is a reliquary?

A reliquary is a vessel meant to hold a relic, or a surviving trace of a holy person. Many churches along pilgrimage routes displayed relics, which attracted traveling pilgrims. Miraculous powers were attributed to some relics, which could include preserved bodies, body parts, or the personal belongings of saints or important religious figures. Reliquaries could be as simple as a square box, or as elaborate as a fine sculpture. An example of a Romanesque reliquary is the Statue of Sainte Foy from the Abbey Church of Conques. Holding the actual skull of Sainte Foy, this thirty-three-inch figurative sculpture has a wooden core and is covered in silver gilt and jewels.


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